Motorcycling16 Mar 2008 10:08 pm

(Archived – original posting 4/21/06)

All’s good.  Let’s get that clear right up front, all’s good.  No crashing.  Whew.  I was starting to think the monkey was crazy-glued to my back.

A week and a day after our ZoomZoom trackday at Sears, here we are back at Sears again but with Keigwins At The Track. Francisco and I got to the track shortly before the rider’s meeting began and since the bikes were already mostly prepped, there wasn’t a whole lot to do after the meeting. I don’t know if it was due to the suspected afternoon showers or what but for the first time I can remember, Lance omitted the morning track initiation laps.  Even the 1st-timers to Sears had to settle for tackling down an instructor and asking them for some lead-around laps.  Looks like there were no issues with that though.  Oh, also Lance had said in the interest of maximizing track time, any incidents that left bikes stranded (be it a crash or running out of gas) meant your bike stayed out there till either lunch or end of day, no closing track down for the crash truck to roll.  That’s incentive not to crash or run out of gas; half your riding day could go up in smoke.

Between the ZZ day and this KOTT day, Francisco got some nice sticky Michelins installed (well I did the install, at 6-freakin-a.m. Thursday) but since they were new he was real tentative.  I was really hesitant to mention to him that last week I had brand new Bridgestones on the FZR and was hustling by lap 4; I didn’t want him to end up on his ear and then be looking at me cross-eyed.

I spent the vast majority of the day following Francisco.  I frankly was a little tentative from the previous week and having self-doubts.  Also I had Metzeler MEZ1 tires (not the stickiest) on the Duc and didn’t know a tire pressure to work with.  Plus dumping the FZR was one thing, dumping the 996 was a nightmare of a thought.  So I 1) called Metzeler and left tech support a voicemail (they never called back), 2) used the 10% pressure increase rule for the rest of the day.  All things considered, the tires performed admirably at our pace.  Only once, getting into 3a a little hotter than expected and loading the front end did the front give the slightest vague feeling of a little drift, no other issues.

Gotta say at this point that the new R6 hustles once spooled up.  Francisco matched me a few times out of the carousel up toward T7 and ticked off some GSXR rider a couple times; the guy was held up by Francisco in the turns but Francisco had the ponies to keep him behind on the straights.  Eventually the guy got around via a turn and moved off.  It was kinda funny for me to watch.  But yeah that bike is fast.  I am really starting to like the Raven color R6.

We made friendly with the guys pitted next to us, two Philipino guys (one Aprilia Mille and one GSXR1000 with Ben Spies replica bodywork and tire warmers and …) and a black guy (yellow 748 with Infostrada replica bodywork).  They turned out to be really cool and we took some pictures together and chatted a lot.  The guy with the GSXR brought his wife and two young daughters, it was cool to see them hanging with him and his buddies, and walking around and ……  Francisco and I wanted to ride with them but they were in B2 and we were B1 (there was an A group and two B groups that day, no C group.  K@TT was at max capacity)

Mid morning I broke out the lap timer and it was a comedy of errors trying to get it to work.  First attempted use – eye was aimed too high and not seeing the beacon.  Second attempted use – still no readout because the battery was dead the whole time (DUH).  Finally after that, it works, 2nd to last session of the day for me.  I followed Francisco again and had a good time.  Last session (I didn’t know it would be the last session at the time) was fun and interesting.  Prior to that session I’d gone to Lance just to say hi and shoot the breeze.

Somehow the subject of his intermediate 2-day school in August came up.  He really sold me on it and if my kids were a little older or I had reliable inlaws (or my family for that matter) to help Irene, I’d be there.  But at this point I think I’ll save my overnight brownie points for MotoGP and maybe CES.  But I sure want to go.  I told Lance I’d reached the limit of what I can do alone but want to move up to the next level and needed help.  Yeah, that’s how the school subject came up.  Really cool – he said at the end of day 2 there is a series of practice race-starts and then a real, legit 3-lap race.  Most importantly is 45 minute track sessions with 1-on-1 time with instructors helping you with exactly what you want help with, and the obligatory classroom time too.   Somehow I’ve got to go!

In the midst of this conversation, Lance said another option is to hire an instructor for the day or hire Doug Chandler (both of which cost as much or likely more than his 2-day school), and then he pointed over to a large pit area – Doug Chandler was there!!!!!  Then it all clicked and made sense – earlier in the day someone had passed us in some old Cagiva leathers that said Chandler on the back, guess that was one of his students or assistants or….

Well other people wanted to talk with Lance so I left just in time for 1st call for our session.  Francisco and I suited up and went to hot pit.  Green flag and out we go.  In short time a guy on an ’06 ZX10R comes by, green leathers too, “Chandler” on the back.  I was like <:-0    Right behind him was the person in the old Cagiva leathers and a third rider right on their tale.  Umm sorry Francisco, gotta go.  I latched onto the train and all was cool at first.  But quickly I realized that something was changing.  Doug kept looking back, kept looking back, kept ……  I realized later he was checking to make sure his tails were keeping up.  It was so weird to experience first hand that he was very gradually winding up the pace.  I stayed with them for about a lap, next lap it was difficult, 3rd lap they were drifting away by a few feet per corner and I could not close it for nothing.  By lap four they were at least 1 if not 2 turns out of sight so I found myself completely alone.  But they’d gotten me kinda hyped so I kept pushing for what I could another 2 laps.  Then I came in because I realized I was really tired and well aware of what comes next – stupid mistakes and crashes.

Francisco showed up later and after we hung out a bit with the guys next door I packed up the bikes (Francisco had wandered off to who knows where) and most gear and we bailed out.  Ride home was uneventful and everything was quite good.  The weather was fantastic, not a drop of rain.  We got to eat with Craig Smith and one of his instructor buddies and I enjoyed that cause Craig is cool and I don’t get to see him much anymore.  There were a couple crashes and an ambulance roll for what turned out to be a better-safe-than-sorry situation.  Francisco’s R6 and Michelins and my 996 and Metzelers performed flawlessly.  What else can you ask for (except lower lap times or umbrella girls)?

Motorcycling16 Mar 2008 10:04 pm

(Archived – original post date 4/13/06)

This is a summary of Francisco and my trackday at Infineon Thursday.

As you should know by now, Thursday was very good weather for any kind of outdoor activity; in the case of Sonoma, from 845a on throughout the rest of the day.

Last year a friend named Todd asked if we wanted to do a trackday with Zoom Zoom (henceforth referred to as ZZ).  Frankly I was hesitant because I’ve been on my ear more than once due to early year trackdays getting hit with rain.  However Aldo and Francisco were interested and so I decided to try too.  Well as of a week before the event I was trying to bail out.  The rain has been here for 4-5 years straight (or so it seems) and didn’t look like it was going away before 2017.

I went to Zoom Zoom’s website and it showed 29 people on the Intermediate group waiting list.  I hoped someone would bite as I offered my spot to be taken, no one did.  Strange thing I don’t understand – how can the list grow from 29 to 31 (as noted 2 days later) and yet no one got my spot?  Oh well, water under the bridge now.  So as Thursday approached, Francisco waffled back and forth every 5 minutes on whether to go or not.  I cant count how many times I told him “yes I AM going, I have no choice”, but he continued to call and ask.  He waffled right up to calling Wednesday night to say he wouldn’t be going, and then change his mind Thursday early morning to “yes”  (yes, I have to have some excuse for why we were late).

I managed to get a key made for the FZR400 since I’d lost the one it came with during the home remodel.  I decided to take that bike and so loaded everything up in the trailer, some the night before and some that morning (hastily after receiving that phone call).  Picked up Francisco and rolled out to Infineon.  We got there 15 min before the rider’s meeting and so all was well.  Being an ex-race bike, I had minimal prep (tech found a loose left rearset that I had to snug down).  SO I decided to have the Michelin man install my new Bridgestones.  That was kinda funny.  But I didn’t feel bad as I’d called him 2 days before to buy Michelins and he didn’t have my size.

I missed the first and second intermediate sessions but I didn’t care because I was on brand new tires, it had sprinkled during the rider’s meeting, Sears (I’m tired of typing Infineon and it is still Sears to me anyway) is notorious for seepage problems and there were reports of some damp spots and such anyway so I wanted someone (everyone actually) to go dry the track first.

When I finally did go out, the downside was that now the sun had been out for some time, weather was almost-warm, and everyone was basically up to speed.  I managed to take the first lap slow enough despite everyone else to wear the snot off the tires.  2nd lap I picked it up a hair and the tires gave me a little feedback that they weren’t quite there yet.  3rd lap and I started to move.  The tires worked fine from then on.  There were a couple very small drifts from the rear later in the day when pushing a little, and one small slide for a moment from the front when I got into 4 once a little hotter than I’d been trying previous laps.  Otherwise, no problems.  I knew and appreciated this would happen because these Bridgestones are the same ones I did trackday, school, and 2 races at blazing hot Willow Springs in ’04 with -no- problems.  Same for my friend Dean who’s used these tires many times an podium’d with them.  But the Michelin man made a point of politely telling me twice these were street tires and not meant for the track.  I just smiled at him, thinking “not my fault you don’t support Production-class FZR400s.

As the day wore on lots of people crashed, from the morning forward.  Even an instructor went down.  But the sun came out and it actually got hot enough to seek shade.  It was a beautiful day out there and I was happy that my spot didn’t get taken.  I was UNHAPPY though that Todd had gotten sick and didn’t come, and Aldo was in the midst of jobs changes and such plus no time to prep his bike so he didn’t come either.

Chuck Sorenson attended the day and made himself available for training as well as lunch time fast laps 2-up.  I wanted to do the lunch time ride but didn’t follow thru, choosing to nap in the shade instead.  I hadn’t ridden in a long time and to go from nothing to kneepucks was physically trying.

My first time out I felt like such a loser.  I couldn’t remember turn-in points or anything, I always had the gearing wrong, I was rustier than rusty.  Making me more frustrated (if that term could be applied) was that my jetting was off so there was no low end whatsoever, gearing errors were absolute torture and I was making lots of gearing errors.

But things got a lot better as the day went on.  I came up with some new (for me) approaches into T2 after watching the CRAZY fast A group lines from the left end of the front straight bleachers and also their lean angle in T11.

Francisco and I both noted some unsafe riding in the Intermediate session.  I don’t know how the A or C groups were going but B was “not very good”.  Inside and outside passing ZZ allows but it’s supposed to be with a 6’ spacing, many people seemed to be ignoring that completely.  I personally witnessed someone almost get run/spooked right off the track in T4 as two faster guys passed the slower rider wayyyyyy too late into his turn-in for them to be passing, especially with the first passer going up the inside.  I passed him exiting T4 and shrugged my shoulders and pointed toward them in disgust.  I saw other similar things and Francisco reported people passing him too closely as well as seeing it happen to others. My impression of the B group at least is that it isn’t as safe as the Keigwin days.  And frankly I don’t see a reason for this, there is no sanctioned race or trophy.  My other observation is the speeds in this ZZ B group were higher than I’m used to.  I got passed more than I expected.  Some can be attributed to the bike (e.g. a lot less engine) as there were quite a few guys that couldn’t pull away from me in the corners or corner entry (I could actually close them a hair or at least maintain) but once the turn was done, hp was applied and …..

Anyhow being that I had a meeting to that night as well as a speaking part too, I’d told Francisco I’d be skipping the final session so as to get on the road toward home at a decent time.  So the 2nd to last session comes up.  I go out intending to follow Francisco around for the session but he peels off to the side, looking for Chuck to do a ride-n-follow I think.  So I went out for two laps and then came into the hot pit to wait for Francisco to go by.  As I see him coming into T11 I head back out, or so I thought.  The turn worker dude made me wait till traffic passed before I could go out (prob due to the AMA T1 configuration we were using, e.g. no cones, balls to the wall if ya got’em) and Francisco was long past.  When I did get released I lit out after him.  I passed a couple people here and there, a couple passed me.  I figure there is time to catch up.  But who would have factored in a dirt sampling?

SOB unsafe ZZ riders!!!!

I’m coming into T1, at speed, line is set and no deviations are being made, no adjustments, no changes.  For those of you that have seen the AMA T1, it is FAST and NOT the place for passing. If I may be so bold and bodacious, I’m told by my peers and past instructors (when I’ve done schools) that I am a smooth rider.  I think of it like Doug Chandler – very smooth and steady (just 25 times slower), not Troy Bayliss – bike all over the place and looking like borderline out of control (think Colin vs Troy WSB battles).  So I don’t -believe- I was giving out miscues.  Anyhow I’m set in the turn and up comes some idiot inside me.  Let me repeat, T1 is the wrong place to be passing.  Not to mention the (half-hearted if I may label it such, can you tell I’m not much of a ZZ fan?) warning in the morning meeting that it’s better to wait till a straight to make a pass as this isn’t a race.

Well just as I’m having that thought of this idiot passing in the wrong turn and too close, here comes his buddy.  Umm except Mr. A$$ runs into me.

Picture our lines like | \          I am the line slanted to the left and he’s the line going straight.  He stands me up and I’m bee-lined for the runoff area.  I’m all over the brakes to bleed off as much speed as possible.  My error – I didn’t play MotoGP and immediately slam the bike onto it’s left side to TRY and salvage the turn.  I felt confident I could ride it out (THANKS Sears for all the improvements you’ve made to the track).  But when I got out into the grass, it was mud.  OK, light on the bars, DON’T brake, hmm lets feather a little throttle to not load the front end, ummmm slowing slowing…..nope not staying upright!  SPLAT, bike is sliding, I’m down and tumbling, then I’m up and fussing.

Messy but thank goodness for mud, makes things a lot softer.  The FZR cranks but won’t restart plus it is loaded with dirt/mud/grass.  Session is stopped so I can cross the track and roll back down past the stares of the waiting C group.  The fact that they were in the hot pit waiting means our session was a hair from over anyway.

Back in the pits I share a few non-Christian choice words with the next guy over, who came to see if I was alright.  Then some older man shows up asking if I was the one he bumped shoulders with.  I was fuming and angry as can be but I couldn’t yell or curse directly at him.  I did berate him a little, mildly.  He apologized a few times but what bothered me more was he everrrrr so slightly tried to insinuate that mayyyyybe I had turned in on him.  OK, lets say that is the case.  Hey dummy, I was following my line and I was set in it, not adjusting or tightening or…..  So you should NOT HAVE TRIED A PASS!!!  I told him this and he immediately backed off (in my presence at least).  He looked over the bike and apologized quietly some more, appearing more to be trying to assure himself it was only dirt/mud, and then wandered away.

Francisco arrived and then started laughing, more in disbelief and shock that once again I’m the statue and not the pidgeon.  I picked a few chunks of this and that off the bike and in truth it appears that there is no significant damage.  I still need to really clean up and inspect.  But thanks mud and thanks Sears.

As for ZZ, I’m personally done with them.

Call me a Keigwin brown-noser if you will but in ALL the track days I’ve done there I haven’t see the level of unsafe riding and idiocy I saw Thursday.  It’s as if no one heeded the morning meeting at all.  The guy in the next pit over said that though faster, the A group is safer in his opinion because it is mostly 1) racers who know how to pass, 2) racers who know how to get passed.  I might note at this point that the first dummy who passed me didn’t spook me into a mistake, only angered me at his choice.  It was the actual, substantially physical contact with dummy #2 that led to a problem.  I’ve ridden A group before and I think it is a valid argument, faster but more stable.  C group is slow enough that you kinda have to screw yourself.   Between the idiots there and my last experience with ZZ, which was the organizers acting like idiots themselves, I’m done.  Good luck ZZ!!

Oh well, in all I’d say it was a fantastic day.  Crash? Kinda but not bad (two days later and the ONLY soreness is just my muscles from cornering/braking forces as I’m rusty and out of shape.  No pain from the fall).  Bike wasn’t jetted right and that doesn’t make a small engine situation any better.  But the upside is the beautiful weather, riding a beautiful and challenging course.  And those two positives FAR FAR FAR outweigh any “negative”.

Last note – I’m -still- exhausted.  Next event – 4/21 at Sears again.  Keigwin this time.  B group again.

Motorcycling14 Mar 2008 08:52 pm

Welcome to Tales from the track!  I look forward to what the future holds.  Hopefully you’ll continue to follow along with me and enjoy the ride. 

 Mostly what will be found here is my motorcycle escapades at the best roadracing courses the West coast has to offer.  But there’ll also be other things that motivate me to share.  I have a very active if somewhat strange and sarcastic sense of humor, sometimes an interesting view on life and sometimes not.  Regardless, I hope this adventure will be fun.  But it’ll never be fun if it doesn’t get started.  So with that said….

Motorcycles are a powerful thing.  They can make you feel free and forget all your problems (at least until your butt starts to ache), they can generate endless smiles.  They catalyze people into a “pro” or “con” stance, many parents falling into the latter catagory as mine did initially.

 I got into motorcycles because they looked cool and seemed to be a natural progression from the BMX bikes I’d ridden my entire childhood.  My first exposure was with a friend’s Yamaha YSR50 and a near-miss with the front bumper of a Toyota Corolla.  From that moment, I knew I’d have my own bike.  A couple years later I financed a brand new ’91 Suzuki Katana 600. 2 hours later I had a crashed Katana 600.  6 months later I had a stolen Katana 600 and a $1600 balance to pay.  I became sour on motorcycles until ’94 when I got a used Yamaha FZR600.  A friend I call K.O. took me on his GPz900 to buy it and ride home, I was thrilled.  A few months later a brisk backroads ride with an acquaintance named Bob Gardiner and some others resulted in me getting sucked into some corners wayyy too fast and scaring my skivvies into a different color and consistency.  I then realized I had no clue what I was doing on a motorcycle.

I took a Keith Code course at Laguna Seca and then started doing Doc Wong’s Sunday rides.  By now I’d moved on to a ’92 Honda CBR600 F2 that I’d reverted from race bike to street bike.  I started to learn to work on my own bikes too, as well as develop other motorcycling friendships.  At one Doc Wong ride, there was a guest speaker named Chuck Sorenson.  He’s an accomplished 250cc 2-stroke racer.  He told the story to us of how he no longer was confortable riding the street.  Too many unknowns and dangers.  WHAT?!?!?  How could he justify going as fast as he did on a track and say such things about the street?  Whiner!!  Little did I know……

Eventually life, budget, time, responsibilities, children, etc. meant no more Sundays with Doc Wong’s group.  But I continued to ride for fun as well as commute.  One day a couple of years later (on BARF I believe) I run across news that a local motorcyclist named Declan Lynch was killed and a commemorative trackday was being organized in memory of him.  There’d be tshirts, a group picture on the track that would be sent to his parents back home, and so on.  This seems like a great way to honor a fallen comrade and enjoy some racetrack time at the same time.  This was the beginning of understanding Chuck Sorenson’s attitude.  It was also the beginning of a beautiful symbiotic relationship between myself and K@TT (Keigwins At The Track, the trackday organizer that grew from Lance Keigwin’s efforts to organize a memorial for Declan).   Over time I’ve also enjoyed tracktime with PTT (Pacific Track Time) and Zoom Zoom (except my first-ever experience with their staff SUCKED for my friend and I) From that day forward, I spent more and more time dedicating my riding activities to the track environment and less and less time on the street, excluding commuting.  It was progressively clearer that the track environment was much safer than the street.  Not to say that problems can’t happen there too, they do.  But in this environment you are surrounded with like-minded people and a comraderie that’s hard to explain; in a clean, purpose-specific environment; with qualified assistence (e.g. ambulance and paramedics) no more than 2 minutes away at any point.  Compare that to the street – idiots paying more attention to their cellular conversation then the privilege of driving; roads contaminated with slippery substances or obstacles; stray children/animals; police; stopsigns and lights; haters that only live to interfere with your adventure, and so on.

I have now become a full-on track snob.  I’ve even dabbled in amateur racing, a very small dabble in 2004 with WSMC at Willow Springs Raceway in SoCal.  The first dabble resulted in narrowly missing out on 3rd place thanks to a fast 250cc 2-stroke beating me to the line.   The second and thusfar last dabble ended in crashing out of 2nd place on the last half of the last lap, with a mile lead on 3rd place, because I was trying to catch 1st place.  Oh, I’ll still go on a street ride if a group wants to go.  But in those instances, I’m no more than a back-of-the-pack tag-along, probably enjoying most the viewpoint of the other rider’s rear tires and chains circling round and round.  For you see, other than one person who is related to me, I can’t pay any of my riding cohorts to even try an entry level trackday.  Don’t want to take the time off.  Don’t want to invest in the needed gear (umm, I’ve got spares).  Don’t want to spend the money (99.9% chance it gets blown on something else regardless).  So now I feel just like Chuck Sorenson, I just don’t have his talent!!  Screw the street.  Bring on closed circuit organized riding.  And that is mostly what this blog will be about.  The adventures of …….. whatever is to come; primarily related to motorcycle riding, but probably some other stuff too.

To start with, some archived trackday postings……..just as soon as I can find where I stored them.

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